AOAV: all our reportsAOAV's Key Research PapersImpact of explosive violence on civilians

The Improvised Explosive Device and ‘The Propaganda of the Deed’


A significant proportion of explosive harm around the world today is caused by the Improvised Explosive Device (IED). In recent decades it has become a popular weapon for the non-state actor – from the extremist to the insurgent – transforming battlefields and causing devastation to civilians and militaries alike.

At the same time, the IED has proliferated in an increasingly digital world, one vulnerable to both violent propaganda and, when that translates into action, the actual violence of the ‘Propaganda of the Deed’.

It has meant that, as technologies have emerged, so too have methods of violence – and those who seek to employ them – evolving and proliferating in turn. In this way, the IED has transformed over time, alongside the media framing of it. Today, the IED not only provides an economy of means for terror organisations, but also ensures the violence it perpetuates provokes outrage and media attention.

Fused with the ideals being the ‘Propaganda of the Deed’, this form of violence has the capacity to shock, terrify, and inspire a larger network of people than ever before. Such an influence and impact has meant the IED has become a central focus of Action on Armed Violence’s (AOAV) research and output.

AOAV believes it is important to analyse the symbiotic relationship between this improvisational form of violence and the ideologies that drive its use. We feel the history of the IED, the contemporary use of the IED, the rise of the suicide bomber, and the cultural, social, and political conditions for the proliferation of the IED must all be analysed in turn – through the prism of ideology and propaganda – in order to better address their spread and to mitigate their harm.

This report seeks to do this.

AOAV thanks the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) and the French Government for making such research possible through their funding and support.

Watch the CCW Sixth Review Conference side event: The IED and ‘The Propaganda of the Deed’

This event explores the ideological framing of the use of the Improvised Explosive Device (IED) over time – from its rise in revolutionary movements of the 19th century, to its use in nationalist uprisings in the 20th, and its role in conflicts framed in religious terminology in the 21st century.

Research on the use of IEDs within far-right extremist networks and the role of suicide bombing in Boko Haram’s insurgency will be presented. This event was co-organized by the Permanent Mission of France and Action on Armed Violence (AOAV).

Related links:

Report Launch Event

Related reports from Action on Armed Violence:

For more of AOAV’s research on Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) follow this link.